Last week in H2H Categories Strategy we discussed the merits of punting. This week, I want to talk about what I look for in hitters once we get past the early rounds – consistency. Since we play a game that resets every week, we want to roster players that will fluctuate less. Hot and cold streaks will happen even with the best players, but there are certain qualities we can look for in hitters that should minimize our risk.
Growing up, my dad was the coach of my little league team. He would tell us, get on base and good things will happen. While it seems really simplistic, I still follow my dad’s advice when I’m looking for consistent hitters – high contact rates and a low K-BB%. Basically, we’re looking for players with good plate skills. These might not be the sexiest names in the draft, but grabbing a handful of these players in the mid to late rounds will provide your team with an ample floor. Without further ado, let’s get to the list:
Kings of Constant (ADP 60-100)
Anthony Rizzo, 1B – 82.0% Contact%, 2.4% K-BB% – Rizzo is currently coming off the board at pick 70 in NFBC leagues. He’s been the definition of consistency, posting a 5.1% K-BB% or better each of the last five seasons. In that time he’s been a 4+ category player, even contributing steals from the first base position. Rizzo’s slated to bat second in the Cubs’ lineup and I expect more of the same moving forward.
Marcus Semien, SS – 82.9% Contact%, 2.1% K-BB% – Real talk – when I started the research for these players, I did not expect to have Semien in the same category as Rizzo. Semien’s transition into a “King of Constant” began in 2018 when he put up an 81.1% Contact%. In 2019, everything took another step forward – Contact%, O-Swing%, BB%, K%, and in case you needed a cherry on top, Hard Hit%. Semien made a bat change during spring training last year and it clearly paid dividends. With an ADP of 89, Semien makes for an super-safe mid-round pick and provides an excellent floor to your fantasy roster.
Princes of Predictability (ADP 130-180)
Michael Brantley, OF – 90.8% Contact%, 2.4% K-BB% – Brantley is such a throwback. In a league of launch angles and exit velocity, Brantley has put up five (healthy) seasons of at least a .299 average. Hate the Astros all you want, but he’s slated to hit third, in between Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman. At an ADP of 130, Brantley provides a roster stabilizer in the 11th round of a 12-team draft.
Justin Turner, 3B – 84.5% Contact%, 6.7% K-BB% – Turner has rapidly become a priority for me in the middle rounds of the draft. Honestly, I fantasize about drafting all Dodgers and Twins this year. Turner is slated to hit third in what will no doubt be a juggernaut offense. The runs and RBIs will be there and Turner will add 20+ HRs with a .290 average. Health is the only reason why Turner is being drafted in the 14th round instead of the 7-8th. A fun exercise is to use the Steamer600 projection system to see how his production would compare to the other players at the hot corner. When we sort by wRC+, Turner slots in as the ninth ranked third baseman, in between Jose Ramirez and Nolan Arenado.
Jean Segura, SS – 86.6% Contact%, 6.9% K-BB% – I wish we could just erase last year’s injury-riddled year. Per Roster Resource, he’s currently slated to lead-off for the Phillies. While there were some troublesome trends in 2019 – increased O-Swing%, decreased Z-Swing% – he still finished in the 94th percentile for Contact%. I find myself filling my MI spot with Segura so that I can swing for the fences in other spots.
Dukes of Dependability (ADP 200+)
Adam Eaton, OF – 84.2% Contact%, 6.3% K-BB% – We know that steals are in high demand, so what would you think of a player that goes 15-15 with a .280 average and 100 runs scored? What would you say if he’s being drafted after pick 200? That’s what we’re looking at with Adam Eaton, who’s projected to bat second for the Nats. In 2019, Eaton managed to lower his swinging strike rate, and consequently his strikeout rate, to reach a five-year low.
Kolten Wong, 2B – 83.8% Contact%, 6.5% K-BB% – This marks back-to-back weeks for Wong making an appearance, as he was considered a later round steals target. Last year, we saw Wong take a more aggressive approach at the plate. While this led to an increased O-Swing%, his 83.8% Contact% was a career-best. Wong checks off a lot of boxes for me – plate discipline, late-round steals, projected to bat second and fills a shallow position. With an ADP of 213, I love slotting Wong in as my MI.
Daniel Murphy, 1B – 87.7% Contact%, 8.8% K-BB% – I fell hard for Murphy’s debut season in Colorado and boy did it come back to bite me. Murphy missed 22 games in April after fracturing his finger while making a diving play at first base and it just seemed to derail the hype train. Despite a down year, his contact rate remained in the 95th percentile and he still managed to bat .279. I’m buying back in on the post-hype. If we thought he “could hit .330 in Coors” last year, there’s no reason that he couldn’t do it this year at a discounted rate of pick 230.
Luis Arraez, 2B/OF – 93.3% Contact%, -1.9% K-BB% – Here’s your MVP of (cheap) plate discipline. Arraez’s contact rank placed him first amongst batters with at least 150 plate appearances in 2019. He also ranked in the top 77th percentile in O-Swing%. Unfortunately, he projects as an empty batting average contributor. There is the scenario where he wins the lead-off job, in which we could see him scoring a ton of runs in the highly-vaunted Twins offense. With an ADP of 237, I’m looking to him if I gambled on batting average early with the likes of Joey Gallo.
Tommy La Stella, 2B/3B – 89.9% Contact%, 2.5% K-BB% – I feel like people are forgetting what La Stella did in 2019 before he broke his leg fouling a pitch of it (WTF). He was in the midst of a legit breakout, smashing 16 taters (triple his previous high) while batting .295. The Angels tinkered with his batting stance and unlocked a monster. La Stella always had top-notch plate skills, but his hard-hit rate skyrocketed from 31.0% in 2018 to 43.2% in 2019. With his price pretty much free (293 ADP), Tommy Boy makes an excellent flier late in your draft.